The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Cox M.B.A. program becomes desirable

Typically in an economic downturn, young people flock to graduate school in an attempt to delay facing “the real world.” Many recent college graduates would rather do anything than confront the exhausting process of searching for employment in a grim-looking job market. This hasn’t been the case this year — at least as far as M.B.A. programs go.

The Wall Street Journal reported that applications for two-year, full-time M.B.A. programs that began this fall fell an average of 9.9 percent from last year’s numbers. Even the most prestigious programs saw a decline. Harvard Business School’s applications dropped by 4 percent.

One school, however, is getting something right despite the slow economy. Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business saw a 9 percent increase in two-year, full-time M.B.A. applications this year: a number that bucks the national trend in nearly the polar-opposite direction.

While the initial stages in a recession make business graduate programs appear attractive, a prolonged one causes the opposite effect.

Libby Magliolo, a first-year Cox M.B.A. student focusing on marketing and finance, understands why the national trend is seeing a decline in applications.

“I’m not terribly surprised given how long the recession has lasted,” Magliolo said, “Especially when you factor in tuition of a good program and the opportunity cost of giving up two years of salary for a multi-thousand dollar investment. People are looking for job security for now instead of the possibility of climbing in their careers.”

For many, those multi-thousand dollar investments result in student debt. The estimated tuition and fees for the 2011-2012 school year at the full-time M.B.A. program are $45,808.

“People are getting really shy about taking out student loans; they don’t want to incur big debt,” Marci Armstrong, associate dean of graduate programs at Cox, said.

Though Armstrong has seen some M.B.A. applicants shy away from enrolling into Cox because of issues like student loans, applications have continued to soar over the past five years. In 2006, 339 people applied to the program — a number that has nearly doubled. The application process in 2011 raked in 660 applicants.

While she took the economy into consideration, Magliolo didn’t hesitate to apply to Cox. After getting her bachelor’s degree at Wheaton College, she worked for a small trade association near Chicago called the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA). A couple years later, Magliolo decided that she had climbed the ladder to her highest ability and that she needed to boost her career by returning to school.

She chose SMU because she is originally from Dallas and liked the Cox program structure and numerous career-enhancing opportunities.

“Cox does a good job in the curriculum of keeping a very complete business education and putting that into use with the alumni network,” Magliolo said.

Armstrong gave many reasons why Cox is bucking the trend, but perhaps the most obvious is that its M.B.A. program jumped ahead four spots in the Bloomberg Businessweek’s “The Best U.S. Business Schools 2010” list from No. 16 to No. 12. Armstrong said that Cox has also facilitated the application process. Students no longer have to provide letters of recommendation and in some cases applicants can waive the $75 application fee.

“We’re trying to knock down barriers and make it easy to apply,” Armstrong said.

Cox is also gaining more awareness on social media — and the students themselves do the marketing. According to Armstrong, students spend part of the M.B.A. program participating in the American Airlines Global Leadership Program — essentially a graduate version of study abroad in which students choose a region of the world they want to visit and then spend most of their first year learning about that region’s culture.

After final exams in May, the students visit their selected countries for two weeks and expand their classroom experiences. While the students are abroad, they share their experiences through various social media outlets, such as Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube. Armstrong traveled with students to Vietnam and China in May 2010.

“While we were traveling you could watch us live or get tweets live,” Armstrong said. “We had about 1,000 people following us and we think a lot of those were prospective students.”

Magliolo was among one of the prospective student followers. She said that she followed some of the student blogs and watched the real-time videos on YouTube. By doing so, she was able to interact with older students who would become her future classmates.

Cox has worked hard to draw in more applicants, but its geographic location is also helping the growing numbers.

“Dallas has handled the downturn of the economy extremely well,” Greg Davis, another first-year student who completed his bachelor’s degree at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania said.

Both Davis and Magliolo agreed that they couldn’t be getting their master’s degree in a better city.

“Dallas has a large and growing number of Fortune 500 headquarters because the cost of living is lower,” Magliolo said. “People are choosing to move their offices here which is great for us.” 

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